When parents take a custody dispute through the Bloomington, IL, family court system, a judge must resolve custody rights for their children by assessing numerous factors. All family court judges are required to keep the children’s best interests in mind in their rulings, and judges aim to ensure that every child affected by their ruling has access to the support and financial resources they need from their parents. Therefore, a custody order will typically include a child support determination, which will outline each parent’s financial obligations to their child.
It’s vital for any parent with a custody and support order to firmly understand the terms of this order. If you must pay child support in Bloomington, IL, but fail to meet your payment obligations, you could face penalties including contempt of court, fines, and jail time. In addition, if back child support accumulates to a significant degree, the court may garnish the nonpaying parent’s wages or seize assets to repay their child support debt.
Life can pose unpredictable problems, and events may arise that interfere with your ability to meet your payment obligations. However, there are legal remedies available to you in this situation that you must use to avoid the penalties for nonpayment of child support. Primarily, you can use the modification process to request reasonable changes to your support terms.
What Is Modification?
The modification process is a relatively straightforward legal mechanism unique to family law. The family court system of Illinois recognizes that a family court order may not be entirely future-proof at its initial implementation. A custody and support agreement is made using information available at the time of its creation, but new life events may arise soon after the agreement is approved that affect its terms.
A modification petition can potentially allow a parent to secure reasonable changes to their standing family court order in light of recent life events that significantly impact the terms of the order. For example, suppose something in your life has recently and unexpectedly changed due to forces beyond your control. This change influences your ability to meet the responsibilities listed in your court order. In that case, you can submit a modification petition to change the order to reflect your new circumstances more accurately.
Some of the most commonly cited reasons for parents to file modification petitions in Bloomington, IL, are:
- Job loss. If a parent is required to pay child support, the amount they need to pay depends on their income. Therefore, if they unexpectedly lose their job, they may not be able to meet their support obligations. A parent in this situation could petition for a reduced support obligation or temporary pause on their child support payments until they secure new employment. However, a parent could not simply quit their job to claim they cannot afford to pay child support. Job loss is only a valid reason for modification if the parent lost their job due to forces beyond their control.
- Relocation. A parent with a custody order may decide to move, which may materially affect both parents’ ability to adhere to the standing custody order. If you intend to relocate with your child, you must be able to prove that the move would better suit the child’s best interests than their current living arrangements. A parent may also need to fight their co-parent’s relocation petition by proving the opposite, that the intended move would be detrimental to the child in some way.
- Medical issues. A parent may petition for modified custody terms or a lowered support obligation in response to a medical complication, significant injury, or development of an illness that influences their ability to continue paying support.
- Contempt of court. If a parent has intentionally violated the terms of a custody and support order, or if they have repeatedly failed or refused to pay child support as required by their court order, the other parent may file contempt proceedings against them. This can evolve to include a modification request. A parent may petition to modify their custody and support terms that reflect the other parent’s recent bad behavior.
If you believe recent events in your life qualify as reasonable grounds to request a change to your standing family court order, an experienced attorney can guide you through the modification process. Next, you submit your petition to the Bloomington, IL, family court and a hearing is scheduled. At this hearing, a judge will listen to testimony and consider evidence presented by the parties involved in the case. If the judge determines that the requested change is reasonable and necessary, they may approve the change with immediate effect.
How to Reduce a Child Support Obligation
All parents need to understand how child support works in the family court system. The court upholds that both of a child’s parents share economic responsibility for their child. If one parent has custody and the other does not, the custodial parent assumes responsibility for the child’s basic living expenses and covers their support obligation by handling their day-to-day needs. The noncustodial parent would pay child support to the custodial parent each month. The amount paid typically depends on the estimated financial needs of the child and the incomes of their parents.
It is typically difficult for any parent to have their child support obligation reduced. However, it is possible if the parent can prove the reason behind their request is something outside of their control that significantly impacts their income, expenses, or living situation that conflicts with their support obligation. For example, if a parent is required to pay child support based on their income of $10,000 per month when the order is created, they may be unable to continue making payments if they were to suffer a severe injury that prevents them from returning to work.
If you are not sure whether you have grounds to request a change to your child support terms, it is vital to discuss your case with an experienced family law attorney as quickly as possible. While the modification process is relatively straightforward, you will still require reliable legal counsel to help you navigate the case. In addition, consult an experienced Bloomington, IL, family law attorney if you need to file a petition for modification after recent unexpected changes in your life.